One Simple Way to Inspire the Next Generation of Writers

One Simple Way to Inspire the Next Generation of Writers

I was walking into the living room when my husband said, “Holy shit, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is dead.” 
 
The news hit me so hard I fell into a nearby wall. 
 
The notorious RBG was the

  • champion of equality who flipped the system on its head, 
  • the tiny and mighty example that glass ceilings are meant to be shattered,
  • a Supreme Court titan who answered her calling until the very end of her life. 

She inspired me to tame my imposter syndrome and live up to my ideals.
 
Part of me believed Justice Ginsberg would live forever. 
 
Sadly, she didn’t.
 
And now our country will reckon with the questions arising from her absence. 
 
On Sunday as I reflected on Justice Ginsburg’s role in my life, I watched a video interview with six high school students I met through a local spiritual center. The teens sat on an outdoor labyrinth and talked honestly about their lives during COVID-19. 
 
Amidst the fidgeting and nervous laughter were honest reflections on their fears of not being taken seriously, the struggle to set boundaries when not everyone holds the same beliefs, and the difficulty of spending so much time alone. 
 
 One young woman said, “Now that all my activities have come to a screeching halt, I don’t know who I am. Every dark feeling I’ve ever had screams in my ears.” She went on to talk about how silence amplifies our unworthiness. 
 
Determined not to live small lives, these teens used creativity and meditation to quiet their inner chatter. 
 
They were so wise, and yet they also clearly expressed how badly they needed all of us. 
 
While they said time and attention are great, what they really need is for us to show them what’s possible by living up to our potential.  
 
Right now, someone younger or newer to your field is struggling with their inner imposter. You have the power to help them see beyond their perceived limitations. 
 
This doesn’t require you to become the next RBG. 

Sometimes, what you do at your lowest point is what counts. 
 
In February of 2014, I quit my job as a mental health counselor for two equally important reasons. After a two-year struggle with Lyme disease, I was too sick to work. While making this decision, I realized that fifteen years of ignoring my writing dreams hadn’t given me the life I wanted. It was time to answer the call.  

For the next few weeks, I walked a trail near my townhouse and wondered what the hell I was doing. 
 
At the end of one of those walks, I met a new neighbor. After a few pleasantries, he asked the question I dreaded most. “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I replied, forcing a smile.

 “Oh, how fascinating,” he said. “What books have you published?”
 
“Well none,” I said. “But I’m currently writing one.”
 
“Good luck with that.”  He smiled skeptically in my direction then walked away. 
 
I shuffled home as my inner imposter laughed at me. “Hey loser, did you see that smile?” 
 
I nodded, wiped away a tear, and thought about quitting.
 
The next day, I wrote the first chapter of a book. 

Every day after that I wrote again. 
 
Two years later, my former clinical supervisor asked me to tea. During our visit, she told me that watching me following my dreams had inspired her to take a one-year leave from her job. She planned to attend an intensive meditation retreat she called her personal Eat, Pray, Love adventure. 
 
A little while after that, a friend told me she was writing a book. 
 
Someone else started a business after watching mine grow. 
 
Seeds were planted that I could never have imagined in 2014.
 
This isn’t some magic, good-luck story. This is what happens when you show others that our dreams are important and possible. 
 
You see, life isn’t all about you. 
 
In pursuing your dreams, you give others permission to do the same. 
 
During the month of October, consider this experiment
 
Every time you encounter an opportunity to pursue your dreams, instead of asking “Why on earth should it be me,” ask “Why shouldn’t it be me?” Then act accordingly. 

When collecting data, don’t just pay attention to how you feel. Notice what others do because you’ve answered this call. 

At the end of the month, send me your findings. 

Or better yet, Tweet me your response with the hashtag #experimentsingreatness.

The F Word Every Writer Fears Most

The F Word Every Writer Fears Most

In my late twenties, I spent two years trying to turn my dream of earning an MFA in poetry into a reality. I attended graduate-level writing courses, workshopped my portfolio, and wrote teaching manifestos.
 
In March of 2000, I received an acceptance letter that included a free ride and the chance to teach college writing classes. The Dream had arrived. 
 
Looking at that letter, I believed hell yes was the only acceptable response. 
 
But as soon as I said yes, a still, small voice inside me screamed, “No!” The next seven nights were sleepless. Fearing I would puke, I skipped almost every meal. Every part of my body said, “Don’t do it.”
 
But how could I say no to The Dream? 
 
Certain this was just my imposter acting up, I drafted a resignation letter for my job and planned my cross country move. Three days later, I fielded calls from the program director about possible funding opportunities. I should’ve been so happy. 
 
But that little voice wouldn’t shut up. 
 
A week after my acceptance, I called to say I’d made a mistake. 
 
The director accused me of stealing another writer’s dream. His finishing move was a brief pause followed by “We thought you had so much promise.” (What I heard: I’m so disappointed in you.)

Holy guilt-storm, Batman! I was beyond crushed. 
 
Someone had expressed what I’d always secretly known: I was a failure with absolutely no promise. 
 
Certain I’d blown my one and only chance at The Dream, I stopped writing for almost two years.

When my stories refused to give up on me, I dusted off my ego and wrote a novel. Three drafts in, that project fizzled out. 
 
Hello, failure number two. 
 
Failure is the F word many of us fear most. Seeing mistakes as our worst nightmare, we trade perfection on the small stage for potential greatness. When meager attempts fail, we call ourselves bad eggs and smash our fragile egos into the wall. 

We equate mistakes with sins, and friends, we all know where sinners are headed.
 
Did you know the original definition of sin is to miss the mark? 
 
When we make a mistake, we are simply missing the mark.

And, in a writing life, every miss is an invaluable gift. 

Every draft that doesn’t work is an opportunity to get clearer about your story.

Every critique that hurts in an opportunity to make friends with your ego.

Every rejection is an opportunity to find the right home for your work.
 
For a long time, I was blind to these opportunities. Instead, I lived from the hell of my perceived shortcomings. 
 
A few years ago, I decided to see my life, and especially my writing life, in a new way. Instead of seeing outcomes as good or bad, I view everything as a grand experiment.
 
Writing a draft, querying an agent, and proposing a session for a conference, are all just experiments. The outcomes are simply data that tell me whether or not I missed the mark.

Some of those misses are the reason I’ve made it this far. 
 
That stalled manuscript taught me everything I needed to know about writing a book
 
That graduate school fail taught me to trust my gut because it knows that sometimes the imposter is not the one who’s trying to slow you down. Sometimes an opportunity isn’t a great fit, even if it feels like a dream come true.

Saying no isn’t the end of the world. There are always more opportunities down the road.  
 
Am I able to do this perfectly?

Hell no.

When I recognize I’ve reverted to the old way, I feel my feels and remember that seeing everything as an experiment is an experiment too. 
 
What would your life be like if you viewed everything as one grand experiment? 

What risks would you take? 
 
When would you allow yourself to say no? 
 
What would happen to your inner imposter? 
 
Send me an email. I’d love to know how your experiments are going. 
 
Or better yet, Tweet me your response with the hashtag #lessonsonfailure.

How the Imposter Syndrome Works to Keep You Small

How the Imposter Syndrome Works to Keep You Small

At 37 inches and 37 pounds, I was the second smallest kid in my first-grade class. The smallest was a kid we called Peanut—a boy so tiny, he’d drown in the shallow end of the pool. Everyone loved to ruffle Peanut’s hair. I loved his “old man” style, complete with plaid bell-bottoms, butterfly-colored shirts, and hair slicked down with Vitalis. 
 
Peanut was a sweet, old soul who appeared to like being small.
 
For a long time, I did too. 
 
Growing up in a rust-belt town where bad luck seemed like all we had, a small life with guarantees felt like my best option.
 
In early adulthood, I chose careers with certainty and sought out pensions that would carry me through retirement. It worked for a while, but in my family living small wasn’t just about paychecks. We stayed small because we feared someone would discover our flaws, or worse we’d try something hard then fail. 
 
Even when small felt safe, it had consequences. 
 
Watching people live the life I wanted left a bitter taste in my mouth. 
 
After a while, I believed I was weak, and felt trapped by my imposed limitations. 
 
Eventually, my body got on board. By thirty-five, I had developed three autoimmune diseases that zapped my energy. Then I contracted Lyme disease and that showed me how frail I had become. 
 
At the height of my Lyme days, I was underweight and jaundiced. My cold hands purpled with poor circulation. Every muscle and bone ached. I feared death was next.  

One day, I stared into a mirror and said, “If I’m dying, what have I got to lose?” 
 
I asked my husband to take a picture of me so I could remember this moment. 
 
Then I committed to living the life I really wanted.
 
While I thought Lyme might kill me, I was certain stretching myself would. 
 
Every time I tried something new, my mind said, “Stop! You can’t do this. Remember, you’re that poor kid with a subpar education and shitty grammar. And you’re sickly to boot. It’s only a matter of time before they find out what a loser you really are.” 
 
My heart raced. 

My stomach flip-flopped. 

My hands shook.

My body begged for me to stop.
 
When it felt like too much, I gave myself a hug and said, “Yeah, I know how hard this is.” Then I kept going.  
 
A few years later, my Lyme went into remission. As I had more energy, I took more chances. 
 
Instead of killing me, each effort made me stronger. 
 
And happier. 
 
Along the way, I learned the imposter syndrome is common among high-functioning, talented people who come from marginalized backgrounds. It’s also common in people who grew up in places where staying small was modeled. 
 
Not sure if that’s your story? 
 
Has anyone ever said:

  • “Who do you think you are?”
  • “Look who’s getting too big for their britches?”
  • “I guess you’re highfalutin now.”

 Growing up, variations on those phrases were slung at me any time I took risks. It was done not out of malice, but love. My parents and grandparents had always struggled, and they hoped that lowering my expectations would protect me from the disappointments life would surely bring. 

Now, I’m in the process of authoring something different. 
 
I hope you are too. 
 
If your imposter syndrome is keeping you small, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Where do those messages come from?
  • In what situations do you feel it the most?
  • How do you feel when you listen to that limiting voice?
  • What does it tell you?
  • What does it cost you?
  • What kind of life–and especially writing life–do you really want?

As Julia Cameron says, your dreams come from a divine place. Following them is an expression of the divine with you. 

Next week, I’m going to talk about the F word behind all of this small living.  
 
In the meantime, dream a little bigger and know that I’m cheering you on.

Is the Imposter Syndrome Stifling Your Creativity?

Is the Imposter Syndrome Stifling Your Creativity?

Last Monday I granny-shuffled down my street wearing an awkward abdominal surgery binder over my dress (think WWE championship belt made of bright white elastic and Velcro). I was four days post-gallbladder surgery. On this ninety-five-degree day, it felt like someone had been playing catch with my liver. Sweat trickled down my back as my husband walked beside me on what I’d hoped would be a quick private stroll. 
 
Neighbors were hosting a socially distanced gathering on their porch. As I inched toward my turnaround point, their laughter faded to a few murmurs. 
 
I couldn’t tell if they were whispering about my crazy belt or silently cheering me on. 

I just knew this walk was an essential part of my recovery. I had to do it even if walking felt like a brand-new skill
 
Sometimes writing feels like that. A story begs to be written, so we sit down at our desks only to stumble around our ideas as if English was a foreign language. We try and fail and try and fail again.
 
If we’re brave enough to send our work to critique groups or submit it for publication, we do it in front of an audience and hope no one sees how much we struggled to craft something meaningful.
 
Even thinking about an audience can bring about the imposter syndrome, that dreadful feeling that we’re a fraud, and any day someone is going to find out. One of shame’s cousins, the imposter syndrome tells us we’re not good enough to even try. If we do, our efforts are likely to fail. So why bother?
 
The imposter syndrome keeps us small and our stories largely unwritten. 
 
And, it’s oh so common.
 
So, what can we do about it? 

That’s this month’s newsletter topic. 
 
And it’s right on time. 
 
While every day might feel like the same, fall is only three weeks away. Another year will soon arrive. What do you want to accomplish before January 2021?
 
Let’s Carpe motherfucking Diem. 
 
Even if you have an audience. 
 
Even if you’re wearing some version of a blinding white WWE championship belt.
 
Even if the road forward seems impossible to walk.

The Power of Letting Go in Your Writing Life

The Power of Letting Go in Your Writing Life

This week, I’m letting go of two things: my manuscript and my gallbladder. 
 
On Wednesday, I’ll send my manuscript to three beta readers who happen to be uber-talented women with published books and successful literary careers. Part of me thinks, how effing lucky. I imagine the vast praise they’ll lavish on me after reading what can only be called the book of the century. 
 
The other part thinks, holy shit, they’re probably going to say my manuscript sucks. While I know that feedback is essential, handing over this file feels a little like waking from a dream only to realize you really are dancing naked in your high school gym, and let’s just say you could use a few new dance moves. 

On Thursday, I get to be one of the 750,000 people this year who’ll lose their gallbladders. There’s a 97% chance this will be a simple surgery with a short recovery, but I won’t find out about that 3% until I wake up. (FYI: I’m holding space that the 97% is actually 100%, and I hope you will too). 
 
In both cases, I’m not just letting go of an item, I’m letting go of control over the outcome. Deep down, I know I can’t make my beta readers say, “Oh yes, you should DEFINITELY send this out immediately,” any more than I can make my doctor wake me up mid-surgery to discuss his game plan. 
 
All I can do is trust that showing up is enough. 
 
I’ve spent countless hours hacking away a grand total of 13,640 words from my manuscript and digging so deep into my story that its ache has become my friend. I’ve read the book out loud (yes, the whole book), and polished my sentences. I’ve run the essential final spell-check. 
 
For my surgery prep, I’ve traded social media scrolls for time in prayer and meditation. Every day, I envision a simple surgery and an easy and speedy recovery. I’ve even followed my surgeon’s pre-op recommendations, which included a 14-day quarantine where I quit all supplements and caffeine. (You can send condolences to my husband.) 
 
This week, I have to trust that my efforts are enough. 
 
The outcomes are out of my hands. 
 
And, isn’t that how it always is? 
 
So, what are you letting go of this week? 
 
What will you do to remind yourself that your efforts are enough?

Slowing Down Can Speed Up Your Writing Life

Slowing Down Can Speed Up Your Writing Life

Ever since March, I’ve received the same message: slow the eff down. 
 
It shows up in cards I choose, neighborhood signs, and email messages. 
 
Slowing down is my least favorite thing to do. As a toddler, I cried every night when my mother put me to bed. I thought sleep was a waste of time. If I closed my eyes, I might miss something important.

Apparently, I had FOMO before FOMO was a thing. 
 
I’m still terrible about going to bed. 
 
But I’ve learned an important lesson: if the universe is sending you a message, listen to the whisper or prepare for the scream. 
 
Once, that scream came in the form of a truck smashing into the back of my car. At the time, slowing down was also the message. But I ignored it until the crash. Three months and a bunch of torn muscles later, I promised to heed the whisper. 
 
So, I’m slowing down. Waaaaay down. 
 
That means less time on social media, fewer activities, and simpler meals. 

Life feels more spacious, and in that wide-open place, I hear my stories calling. 
 
What’s the universe saying to you? 
 
What are its signs? 

What happens when you don’t listen? 
 
How are you going to respond? 

Boredom Might Be the Kick in the Pants Your Writing Life Needs

Boredom Might Be the Kick in the Pants Your Writing Life Needs

This morning, I channeled my inner Trent Reznor by singing the chorus from the Nine Inch Nail’s song that currently defines my life: 

Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same

There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same 
With the exception of the third line, this is my current jam. Every day is exactly the same. My husband and I get up and walk through our neighborhood,  eat a few paleo pancakes, and then amble to our offices for work. At lunch, we munch on salad and then go for another walk. After work, we cook dinner, go for yet another walk, watch a little Netflix, and then head to bed. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat again. 

 This past weekend, I realized the problem wasn’t just the monotony brought on by COVID, it was monotony’s sidekick: boredom. 

Exploring boredom might feel a bit trivial when millions of people are out of work, fearing eviction, risking their lives in essential jobs, or protesting inequality, all the while thousands of people die daily from COVID-19. But even within these precarious, stressful, and frightening situations, we can experience boredom. 

And boredom is uncomfortable. 
 
For centuries, we’ve been conditioned to avoid it.  
 
Has this ever happened to you? 
 
“Hey ma, I’m bored.” 
 
“You’re bored? Well, let me see …. you could clean your room, shave the dog, pick lint out of the carpet….”
 
Silence. 
 
“Still bored?” 
 
“No.” You slink into the backyard, still bored, and now feeling pretty terrible about it. 
 
Ever hear this? “Idleness is the devil’s playground.” 
 
Or, what about the praise someone gets for saying yes to every single project? “She’s such a great multitasker,” they gush. 
 
We’ve been programmed to see boredom as bad, and as a result, we see bored people as bad. How can we allow ourselves a little boredom when it causes so much disdain? 
 
The pandemic has put us in touch with our boredom. In response, many of us are binge-watching, baking, gardening, spending way to much time on social media, registering for virtual gallery tours, and signing up for every MOOC, webinar, and class we can to fill the time. 

There’s nothing wrong with these activities. 
 
But boredom is the playground of creativity and ingenuity. Bored kids create imaginary kingdoms. Bored adults invent new ways of seeing the world. 
 
Boredom can revamp your writing life. 
 
So, how do you lean into your boredom? 

  • Notice when you’re bored. What are you doing (or not doing)? What does boredom feel like in your body?
  • Write down the thoughts and feelings you have about boredom. Are they particular to this situation, or are you chastising yourself for having any dull moments? 
  • Affirm the power of boredom in your creative life. Say something like, “I’m so grateful to be bored,” or “I can’t wait to see what great ideas I’m about to have,” or “Thank you for giving me enough time and idleness to create something new.” 
  • Resist the urge to numb your way out of boredom through technology or busyness. Instead, stare at the wall, or look at your surroundings. If this feels impossible, set a timer for five minutes so the task doesn’t feel so open-ended. Each time you’re bored, up the time until you reach 15 minutes. If fifteen feels easy, strive for an hour. 
  • Journal about what you thought about or did while you were bored and how it benefited you.

Not sure you can handle it? 
 
Take your boredom to the shower. Yes, you heard me right. Stand under some warm water, and stare into space. Be the jerky housemate who runs out the hot water. As soon as you towel off, write down what happened and what you learned from this experience.  
 
So, enjoy your boredom. While you’re at it, tell me about a time when something amazing happened in the midst of your boredom. I’d love to know what you’ve been up to. 

Voice Lesson Number Four: Develop Your Style

Voice Lesson Number Four: Develop Your Style

When I was a high school senior, I crushed hard on a pair of silver Chucks in our mall’s shoe store.  Those sneakers sparkled under the fluorescents like they were calling to my punk, grunge-girl heart. I can’t tell you how much they cost, only that they cost more than I could afford. 
 
For months, I visited them and daydreamed about the compliments I’d get and how well they’d go with my thrift-store skirts—especially the ones I called my granny camo. 
 
I still think those Chucks are pretty rad, but I’m now at an age where my shoes need arches. 
 
Some of you might be thinking, silver Chucks, really?
 
If you are, that’s great! Style—whether it’s in clothing or writing—is extremely personal. 
 
In writing, style involves word choice, sentence structure, and rhythm. While authenticitytruth, and perspective require you to explore something inside of yourself, style is definitely a skill learned over time.   
 
When I think of writing style, three authors come to mind.
 
First, there’s twentieth-century poet e.e. cummings, who wrote 

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she
 
Cummings refused to capitalize anything, including the letter I, in hopes of decreasing the importance of the self in his work. 
 
Then there’s the Hemmingway/Faulkner debate. Faulkner famously wrote a 1,288-word run-on sentence in Absalom, Absalom! Hemmingway’s spartan style is frequently associated with a six-word story—For sale: baby shoes, never worn—that may not actually be his. 

While modern audiences tend to prefer leaner writing (check out the Hemmingway Editor App) you don’t have to become a Hemmingway disciple. You do need to understand your style. 
 
Here’s your inner work: 
 
Scroll through your files and select a piece of writing that exemplifies your best work. Print a hard copy. 
 
Next, record yourself reading the piece out loud. 
 
Close your eyes and play the recording. Listen to the rhythm of your sentences. Do they gallop, trot along, or lazily amble by? Do certain sounds stand out? 
 
Now, play the recording while you follow along with your hard copy. What do you notice about the length of your sentences and your use of white space? What on the page enhances your story? 
 
Here’s your outer work: 
 
Choose three authors you admire. Copy a few paragraphs of their work by hand. Handwriting each word will help you get a feel for the writing and the length of the writer’s sentences. 
 
Record yourself reading this work. Close your eyes and listen to your recording. What do you notice? 
 
Listen back again while following along with your hard copy. See anything else? 
 
Jot down your answers and reflect on what they tell you about your own writing style. 
 
Here’s your writing work: 
 
Consider writing some of your prose in a favorite author’s style to see how it feels. Then try another author. Notice what feels authentic. Ditch anything that doesn’t seem to work. Then practice, practice, practice your art form.  
 
While I hope you’ll focus largely on writers in your genre, be sure to check out On Writing Well by William Zinsser. And, while you’re at it, subscribe to Poetry Daily and see how poets approach this work.
 
Which authors do you turn to when learning about style? Send me their names. I’d love to know, and your answer might inspire someone else. 

Voice Lesson Number Three: Understanding Your Unique Lens

Voice Lesson Number Three: Understanding Your Unique Lens

Do you know what color glasses you’re wearing when you sit down to write? 

Not sure? 

For a long time, I struggled with this too. 
 
In writing, we approach our stories from a particular angle that’s driven by our authentic self. The details you capture or exclude create a tone your writing projects–like glasses with a colored lens. That tone could be darkly humorous, serious, or cynical. 
 
Tone is the attitude we take in our writing. It’s closely aligned with perspective. 
 
To understand perspective, and its relationship to tone, try this exercise with a partner: 

  • Take a picture of a house in your neighborhood and share it with your partner. 
  • Set a timer for five minutes and write descriptions of that house. 
  • Next, describe the house as if you’re standing next to a new lover. 
  • Finally, describe the house as if you’re a soldier who’s just returned from battle.  

 
I bet each description focuses on a slightly different aspect of the house. Those variations come from the character’s lens. Now, notice the similarities between the three descriptions. Those similarities arise from your voice as a writer. The emotional feel of those details is your tone. 

Now, share your descriptions with your partner. 
 
How does their lens compare to yours? 
 
Here’s your inner work: 
 
Return to the social media posts I asked you to save. Weed out the cat and kid pictures. Find the ones where you wrote something that truly represents you. Notice the similarities. Are they funny, impassioned, or serious? 
 
That general tone is an element of the real you. 
 
Here’s your outer work: 
 
Identify the authors on your bookshelf whose lens is similar to your own. If nothing sticks out, drop by your local independent bookstore and ask the salesclerk for some recommendations. As you read selected works, underline the sentences that have the most voice. Write a few down. Journal about why this author’s voice works well. 
 
Here’s your writing work: 

Now that you have a sense of your lens, figure out what you need to do harness its power. Study the masters, read craft articles, and then write, write, write. 
 
What tone patterns did you notice in your social media posts? Send me an email so I can hear what you learned.   

Looking for more voice lessons? 

Voice Lesson One: The Courage to Be True

Voice Lesson Two: Be Your Authentic Self

Voice Lesson Number Two: Be Your Authentic Self

Voice Lesson Number Two: Be Your Authentic Self

I spent the summer of 1984 being my own twin cousin. I was ten. My mom had just chopped my long hair into a shoulder-length bob.

After crying about my uneven bangs, I put on a pair of white plastic sunglasses, stuffed three sticks of Doublemint gum into my mouth, and introduced myself as twin cousin Jennifer from Oswego. 

A few kids were skeptical of my twin-cousin claims, but I answered their questions about my likes (swearing, climbing apple trees, reading Cosmo) and dislikes (playing with sticks, messing with ants, and answering questions).

When they asked how we could be twins if we didn’t have the same mother, I told them our mothers shared a mother and that was pretty much the same thing. 

Without the Internet to debunk my theory, kids agreed to call me Jennifer. 

In becoming someone else, I began to see who I really was. 

Your first voice lesson was about finding your courage

Here’s lesson number two: To find your voice, you have to know who you are. 

Some people think having a voice means turning on the sass, revealing your master’s in slang, or dispensing f-bombs like they’re PEZ candy. Others think you need to be gonzo like Hunter S. Thompson and tell counter-culture stories in strange accents. 

If you’re not gonzo or sassy, trying to write as if you are is like wearing a mask to work. There will be weird looks. When you try to convince someone your mask’s rhino horn is actually part of your forehead, someone will call bullshit. 

Be yourself instead.

Here’s your inner work: 

Exercise #1: What word do you use to describe that piece of furniture in your living room? Couch? Sofa? Davenport? Divan? Love seat? Rumpus Machine? 

There’s no shame in being a couch or sofa person. If you say divan or rumpus machinen, own it. Just begin to notice what language you naturally use. 

Exercise #2: Flip through your real or virtual photo albums. Pay attention to your style. While some fashion choices, like jelly sandals or MC Hammer pants, might have changed, I bet a few things remain the same. Perhaps it’s the cut of your clothes or your color palette. That something that remains the same is likely an aspect of your authentic self. 

Exercise #3: Make a list of adjectives that describe you. 

Exercise #4: Answer the following questions in your journal:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my passions?
  • How do I see the world?
  • If I could follow my bliss, what would that look like? 

 
Here’s your outer work: 

Exercise #1: Make a list of 3 or 4 animals that could represent you. Share the list with a group of friends and ask them which one they’d choose and why. Compare their answers to the adjectives you’ve chosen for yourself. 

Exercise #2: Scroll through your social media posts. Find the ones you’ve written that have the most likes. Copy and paste these posts into a document. Note which ones seem like they represent your authentic voice. We’ll come back to this document later in the month. 

Here’s your writing work: 

Author and entrepreneur Marie Forleo believes writing it rude will help you find your voice. Here’s what she means. Write your shitty first draft as if no one is going to read it. Pump it full of opinions and emotions. Say it with feeling and don’t worry about who’ll get hurt. 

In that passionate place, you’re most likely to write from your authentic voice. Underline the sentences that truly communicate your message, then revise, revise, revise to get the rest right.

When you revise, leave your voice in but take the rude out. As Marie says, the best writing comes from a place of both passion and compassion. 
 
Authenticity is a journey, not a destination. And. it’s important because you’re important. 

Take it from Martha Graham:
 

“There’s a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. it is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” 

 
If you did the animal exercise, send me an email and let me know which one your friends chose. I’d love to know. 

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